Art Class

(Bob Torrez, Creative Commons)

I’ll admit it — I was a theatre nerd in high school.

Throughout those four years, you could find me in the school auditorium, choir room or dance studio. I lived and breathed the arts, and so did all of my friends.

The only thing that got me out of bed most mornings was the promise of another song to be learned or script to be read. My arts friends were my only friends, and I know I would’ve been lost without them.

But not all students get to have those same experiences. In fact, by the end of this year, it is estimated that 25 percent of public high schools will have completely dismantled their fine arts programs.

The first thing to go when a school is faced with budget cuts is usually the fine arts program. School districts will do just about anything to keep their athletics intact. If it has a ball, it’s at the top of the priority list.

But not only are there countless links between arts education and improved math and literacy skills; fine arts programs actually result in higher graduation rates and fewer instances of crime in teenagers.

One study conducted in Missouri showed that schools with lower levels of arts participation had a graduation rate of 87.9 percent. The schools with high levels of arts participation had a graduation rate of 91.2 percent.

There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that fine arts programs motivate teenagers to go to school on a daily basis. It is often the only “fun” part of their day, as you would be hard pressed to find a student who shows the same level of excitement for courses like math and English.

Having rehearsals and concerts to go to after school keeps teens out of trouble when they have nothing else to do on their hands. The fine arts community often resembles a family, and having that kind of support is crucial for young adults who may be straying toward the wrong direction.

Students from low-income families often grow up with little to no exposure to the arts. Placing fine arts programs in public schools levels out the playing field and opens up a whole new world of enrichment to kids who might not have gotten to experience that otherwise.

People may argue that spending part of a limited budget on the arts is a waste of time and resources. But those people have clearly never participated in them.

Fine arts encompass so much more than programs like band and choir. The arts include dance, theatre, orchestra, photography, poetry, and so much more.

These creative outlets provide an escape. Teenagers, more than anyone else, need that escape while they’re figuring out who they are. The arts help them decide who they want to be.

While most students will not go on to pursue a career in the arts, they will never forget the memories they made while participating in them. These programs give everyone a chance to be in the spotlight, literally and figuratively.

I understand that things like instruments and art materials aren’t free, and that money has to come from somewhere. I just think that instead of fine arts being the first program to go on the chopping block, it should be one of the last.

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